Off-road tips that might actually be useful! Gear you might want to buy!
CB Radio • Things You Need to Know
by Mike Vollmert
Having a functioning CB radio is mandatory on virtually all DE trips. There are two parts to that statement - having a radio, and having it function! In our travels, we have a few requirements for a CB that are somewhat specific. First, we need to have a unit mounted in a way that it will withstand the bumping and bouncing of offroad travel. Second, we need the unit mounted in such a way that we can reach the microphone and controls - while bumping and bouncing along our backroads and trails. This write-up is about selecting and installing a CB that will, over time, function as reliably as possible and, as much as possible, avoid failure on the trail. Selecting the right CB radio entails a few basic steps - you'll need to choose a radio, an antenna, and figure out the best way to install it.
First and foremost, look at your vehicle - what space do you have to bolt in a radio in a location that is accessible (can you grab the microphone easily? Will it be out of the way with respect to controls on the dash, passengers, etc?) and secure. A unit that bounces around stuffed in between the seat and the center console will, at the most inopportune moment, fail! The issue of space will dictate the size of the radio you can get.
In my FJ Cruiser, I chose a Cobra radio that has almost all of the circuitry in the microphone (there’s a matchbook-sized box that mounts under the dash). I just didn’t have room around the dash where I could fit a larger unit and not have it in the way of something else. It’s a little more expensive, but it saves space. In many vehicles, a unit can easily be mounted under the dash - easy, convenient, secure. I’ve seen them mounted on the headliner, on the top of the dash, on the center console ..... Lots of personal choice involved in this, but it’s a major thing to think about - not good to buy a unit, then go to your vehicle and find you’ve got no convenient place to put it because it’s too big, or the knobs and controls are in the wrong place, or where you thought you’d mount it isn’t going to work because you can’t get power to it or there’s no good way to route the antenna cable. Plan ahead and avoid a headache!
Selecting a radio is basically selecting one with the features you want. At the end of the day, you basically need a radio for communication, without any bells or whistles. They will all pretty much transmit the same distance. By law, a CB can only transmit 4 watts of power, which places it’s range in a fairly small box - pretty much below 10 miles unless you break the law or use a high powered, Single Side Band (SSB) unit. My recommendation - don’t! You don’t need one that scans, or saves multiple channels, or has weather alerts. Unless you really want that functionality, save your money and get one that just lets you talk on a selected channel and is stout enough to withstand the rigors of driving off road.. (My radio has the weather channel feature, and I’ve never, in 10 years, used it).
Here’s a link about various radios (do your own research as well - Google is your friend, but caveat emptor when it comes to reviews!):
https://www.rightchannelradios.com/blogs/selection-guides/18149787-choosing-the-best-cb-radio (Note: I’m not endorsing these guys, and I don’t necessarily suggest purchasing from them, but their website is a good learning resource. And they basically “get” what we do with our radios)
The second consideration is the antenna. First, will you permanently mount it or use a removable unit (magnetic mount, gutter clip, etc.)? It’s way better to have a permanent mount, but for lots of reasons that’s not always possible. On my FJ, I was able to permanently mount an antenna on the rear door hinge using something called a Bandi Mount - which works really well. So far as I know, this mount is specifically made for FJ Cruisers and doesn’t exist for other vehicles. Bob Jaussaud and I rigged a similar set up on Mignon Slenz’s ForeRunner and I did the same on Glen Shaw’s Tacoma by fabricating a similar sort of mount. I try to avoid drilling holes in vehicles and was able to do my entire installation without doing so, but that isn’t always possible. On Mignon’s and Glen’s vehicles, we had to drill holes. I had to compromise on my “drill no holes in the vehicle” policy when I installed my ham radio and I drilled a hole in my roof - but there are some good solutions for that as well! Regardless, get a good antenna, and make sure you can get a reliable, stable, consistent connection to the vehicle - there’s a principle in radio antennas related to something called a ground plane about which Ham Radio guys wax on poetically forever. If you listen to those guys, you’ll absolutely maximize the performance of your radio, but you’ll have copper straps connecting every metal part on your vehicle - axles, body, frame... For an overlanding rig, and especially for CB radio where you’re basically interested in communicating with the other vehicles in your group over relatively short distances (up to 5 miles or so), you’re safe making compromises on the whole issue, but there absolutely needs to be a good, stable mount to the metal of your vehicle.
Once the antenna is connected to the radio, you’ll want to get someone to tune it. I took my FJ to a guy here locally who sold ham radio and CB radio stuff, and he did it for me for about $20. If you don’t tune the antenna to your setup, you won’t get anywhere near optimal operation, which basically limits your range, sometimes dramatically. On trips, you’ve likely heard radios that don’t come in well, be it transmitting, receiving, or both. Almost guaranteed the issue with those setups is not tuning the antenna and mounting it reliably to the vehicle. Tuning the antenna requires a device called an SWR meter and the knowledge for using it - you can do it (with a little research and either purchasing or borrowing the meter, or, like I did, take the easy route and find someone who does this stuff a lot).
Wherever you mount the antenna, you need a route for the antenna cable that will get the cable from the antenna (on the outside of the vehicle) to the radio (on the inside of the vehicle) without crimping or kinking the wire. Many people run the cable through a door jam, which is basically hoping that opening and closing the door will press the cable into the weatherstripping, but not crimp the cable. I’ve seen it work, and I’ve seen it not work (in fact, we dealt with that very issue with one person on one of Nelson Millers recent trip). If you do choose to route your antenna wire through the door seam, ALWAYS close that door very gently!
Firestik is my recommended antenna, but that’s a basically permanently mounted solution, and it’s a fiberglass antenna - rugged, but not the most distance-oriented type of antenna. The antenna height is a compromise - the taller the better for performance (the ideal CB antenna is
about 8-¬Ω feet tall), but the shorter the better to avoid whacking branches and such while driving. I have the shorter (36”) Firestik mounted on my rear door hinge - it doesn’t stick all that far above my rig, which definitely compromises how far I can transmit, but it’s never been an issue. Generally, I can transmit about 3 to 5 miles. Also, on my rig, the antenna can be removed with a spring-loaded quick release, leaving only a small nub that the antenna mounts to. (This allows me to put the FJ in my garage. The danger with this setup is if you try to transmit without the antenna mounted, you could conceivably blow the unit, so once again, caveat emptor!).
Here’s a link to Right Channel Radio’s recommendations for antennas:
The third consideration is finances - but in reality, if you get a good radio (not the best, not the worst) and a good antenna, you’re going to be in a rough ballpark cost-wise for any of them. I would only caution against getting an off-brand, “el-cheapo” setup, and you’re only transmitting a couple miles, so you don’t need the “keep in touch with the other coast” single sideband ginormous models! By virtue of what we do, driving where we do, we tend to be on the upper end of the spectrum in terms of vibration and stress on the components, but our need for transmitting long distances is not really a factor. Aim for rugged and reliable, keeping in mind that a solid installation is the first priority.
Finally, power. There are two ways to set up your radio - always on, or only on with the car on. Again, personal preference (mine is only on when the car is on, because with my ADHD I would invariably forget to turn off the radio in the evening, only to have the thing run down my battery overnight! The negative aspect of this solution is whenever we stop, if I turn off the engine I lose radio reception). Either way, finding a good, reliable power source is paramount. For the always-on solution, run the power wire straight to your battery with an inline fuse. For the ignition-on solution, make sure you’re connecting to a circuit with ample amperage to drive your radio, and again, use a fuse on that power line!
For sure, there are low-grade, simpler solutions to adding a CB radio to your vehicle. But keep in mind, taking shortcuts and compromising will invariably result in your radio failing at the most inopportune moments. Losing the ability to communicate, aside from the safety factor, could rob you from the rich conversations that invariably happen while driving through the beautiful, historically rich landscapes we all love to explore. My motto - overbuilt is underrated! The time spent researching the right setup for your vehicle and mounting it securely will result in a dependable, long-lasting communication tool for your desert travels. ~ Mike
Handy Portable Phone Charger
by Jerry Dupree
Have you ever found a gadget and wondered how you ever get along without it? I didn’t know such a thing existed as a portable phone charger. Have you wanted to call someone and found your cell phone to be dead? How about a rental car with no electric outlet to charge your phone? I found a disabled car with two elderly couples, one man was handicapped and their only cell phone between them was dead. I let them use mine to contact AAA for service. I handed each of them a bottle of water while we waited and offered to charge their phone with my portable charger. I had originally bought one and then received another one as a gift. The second one has an LED flashlight, which can be very handy to find the right key or the lock. One of my chargers plugs directly into a wall outlet and the other one will charge with a USB plug. There are adapters to charge them from a vehicle.
I was in a position where I was stranded and made a call for assistance and needed to tell the emergency driver how to find me and it nearly used up all of the battery in my phone while I was using it. Having a portable phone charger would have been a good reserve.
The devices are capable of charging cameras as well. They come with plugs for other purposes. The chargers cost around $30 and would be worth the price whenever you or someone near you needs a quick charge. I don’t know how much time a complete charge would take, but 20-30 minutes of cell phone battery life would help to get assistance or to make an important call. One of my chargers was from Best Buy and the other was purchased at our local Ace hardware store. There are indicator lights to tell how much electricity is remaining.
I usually carry one of my chargers in my camera case which is almost always with me,
especially when I travel more than fifty miles from home. ~ Jerry
Cool Clear Water by Jerry Dupree
How much to bring, how to carry it, keep it cool, purify it and how to use it wisely
We live on “the water planet” and depend on it for everything to support life. We need to expand on the adage of “you don’t cross the desert without water” to include “don’t go anywhere without water.” The right amount includes everyone traveling with you and I like to have two gallons per person per day for drinking and keeping clean. You should also bring at least three gallons for your vehicle in case it over heats, breaks a hose, or the radiator develops a leak.
There are a lot of different containers for bringing water. I have had five gallon plastic water containers that are flexible, but they inevitably fail and leak the contents. I have carried three gallon water jugs like the ones used in home or office water coolers which bounce around on bumpy roads until they too will develop splits and leaks. I recently bought some military style“Jerry Cans.” During WWII the British army serving in the Middle East were using fuel containers that had a habit of bursting at the wrong time and losing their contents. They learned from captured German “Jerries” that their fuel containers were superior and the “Tommies” revised their design to equal the “Jerry” cans. I place foam padding under and around the water containers and tie them together to prevent damage from banging together while under way over bumps.
We store 80 gallons of water at home for emergency use in case of a natural disaster. Yes, they have floods in the desert and there are also destructive earthquakes. (The Big One). I researched the Internet and found a water purifier that will purify water at 2 quarts per minute and the filter cartridges will purify 800 gallons each. I have four filters and we can produce drinking water from our swimming pool in an emergency. It will filter .04 microns of bacteria, viruses, giardia, crypstopordia, parasitic cysts, odors, colors, sediment, and foul tastes. That is according to the instructions in the box. It would be nice to be prepared in an emergency. Think of the people living in th
Carolinas following hurricane Florence. Their water supply will be contaminated with every form of water borne illness producing pollutants and micro organisms.
All of the water we carry in our vehicle is pure and safe to drink whetherit is packed for drinking purposes or for the vehicle cooling system. We have a 24 qt. ice chest in the back seat. I freeze a one gallon jug (leaving room for expansion) and cool water bottles in the refrigerator before packing up for a trip. I carry more water than I think is necessary for several reasons. I have given bottles of water to people who didn’t bring any or those I have rescued from being stuck in sand, etc. The temperature of the water will stay cool longer if the ice chest is full. I prefer the 24 oz. bottles because they are a convenient size and fit the cup holders. I like to write names on a piece of masking tape and wrap it around the bottle to identify who’s bottle it is. The basic rule in driving around the desert is to drink water before you get thirsty and sip it often. Drinking a large quantity of ice water will cause cramps. After I park and before I put on my pack I drink between 8 to 12 oz. of water. I bring three bottles in my pack, which means I have a one bottle reserve. I am out hiking and doing wildlife photography one day a week. It takes considerable effort to find good locations for
photography. I need to be near game trails and away from having my cameras discovered by people.
There are other ways to purify water. They make purification tablets, but I am told the water does not taste good. I have heard that leaving a plastic water bottle in the sun will kill any water borne organisms. Boiling water may be the best solution if you don’t have a better way at the moment.
It is possible to make a solar still of a sheet of plastic. Find a dry river bed, preferably with green trees or shrubs to indicate the presence of water beneath the surface. Dig a hole a little smaller than the size of the sheet plastic. Place a bottle or can in the center and stretch the plastic over the hole and place a heavy rock in the corners and around the edges. Place a rock heavy enough to be over the can or bottle but not touching it. The moisture will collect by evaporation and run down and drip into the can or bottle. We succeeded in building and using solar stills in the Boy Scouts, but the water we collected would not be enough to sustain your bodily needs. It will at least give you something to do while waiting to be rescued.
Before launching the 1967 Six Day War, the Israeli army provided each soldier with 6 liters of water prior to engaging their adversaries. It was as important as ammunition and kept as near to the army, and was a definite factor in their success against their enemies (according to the History Channel).
The best way to conserve water is to plan for your needs and to not waste any. Good planning and conservation adds a lot to your enjoyment. ~ Jerry
Intense Talk About Tents
by Jerry Dupree
When shopping for tents there are many choices and decisions to be made. Whatever you do don’t believe the box the tent comes in. When it says it’s a four man tent, they really mean four leprechauns! I haven’t seen many of the little green men lately, so I haven’t asked one if even they were comfortable packed into one. I think four men really means two. Tents are usually made of canvas or nylon. I prefer nylon, because it’s lighter and it’s flexible regardless of temperature. Also, I don’t roll nylon tents. I just cram mine in a large duffel bag, poles, stakes, and all.
Never touch the roof of your tent during the rain. It is bad luck, and means you are about to become miserable. Seriously, your finger on the fabric will break the surface tension of the wet surface and start a wicking action and the water will drip through and soak you and your bedding one drop at a time.
Try to keep your tent away from tree sap, check the ground for rocks and twigs that will puncture the bottom when you step on them. Clear the area before you set up your tent. Avoid getting lantern fuel on the fabric. It can dissolve the water proof coating. LED battery lanterns are better and safer. The part of a tent that wears out first is the floor. You can add seasons to your tent by bringing a scrap of carpet to put on, at least, in the middle of the floor. Also, a piece of carpet in front of your tent will make a good door mat. It will help keep mud or snow out of your tent.
Of the popular styles of tents, there are internal frame, external frame, dome tents, and variations of each. I recommend that whatever style you choose, make sure you can stand up in it. It’s very uncomfortable to try dressing in a tent that isn’t tall enough for you to stand. It’s also difficult to look for your equipment or do anything else while stooped over. Also, it will knock your hat off every time you go in or out.
Of the nylon tents, there are light weight nylon and rip-stop nylon. Rip-stop looks like a checkered or a plaid texture. If you don’t know what rip-stop is, just ask the guy in the store. Like most camping and outdoor gear, tents go on sale in the spring before Memorial day. That is not just the best time to buy one, it’s the only time to buy one.
I prefer dome tents, because they are easy to set up, put away, and store. Of dome tents, I like the ones with two poles instead of three because two are simpler than three and they have a square floor rather than a hexagon. Since none of my gear is shaped like a hexagon, things fit better in a square. Including me. Cots fit better along a straight side. I use cots instead of sleeping on the floor for several reasons. Things that crawl have a harder time making it up the legs of a cot. It’s also easier to get up by putting my feet down than it is to stand up from a laying position. You can store all of your stuff under your bunk, thereby doubling the effective floor space. Oh, and they are comfortable. A good way to stand up in the morning is to place an ice chest outside of the opening so you can use it to help you stand up. I wish I had all the money I ever threw away on cots and just started out by getting aluminum frame nylon military ones to begin with. They don’t stretch and sag, they last a long time, and replacement covers are available.
Once while deer hunting in Utah, four men in our camp were sleeping on thick foam pads on the floor of their tent when it rained. They had a teeny leak in their tent and before the night was over, they were trying to sleep on wet sponges. As luck would have it, the temperature dropped below freezing and their discom fort dropped to abject misery. I, on the other hand, was snug as a bug in a rug.
If your tent gets a hole or a rip in it, the best way to fix it is to bring along some nylon fabric and some contact cement. You can buy it in a tube. Cut the fabric larger than the damaged area and make sure the corners have a
generous radius. Trace the patch on the tent, and cover both the patch and the area to be patched with contact cement. After the cement is dry, press the patch on the tent. The repair will be very strong and waterproof. It’s easier to patch and it will hold up to stresses better than sewing. If there is damage to a seam or stake loop, sew it up with dental floss. That’s what the Indians used, honest injun. Nylon fishing line works even better.
One part of a tent that takes a lot of abuse are the stake loops. Keep all stress and friction away from the loops when pounding the stakes in. Never pull out the stakes using the loops for handles. Use a tent stake extractor. You can buy one or make it by bending a hook in one end of a piece of steel rod, and either weld a six inch handle to it, or make it by bending six inches over at 90 degrees. A stake extractor is also handy to pick things like pots off the fire.
Stakes are specialized and come in a variety of styles. The plastic ones will turn into a gob when you try to pound them into rocky ground. The ones that look like big nails will also bend in this type of ground. Don’t get the wooden ones unless you are hunting vampires. The ones that come with the tent are at best, a bad joke. They are either too soft, too short, or they look like wire slightly larger than paper clips. The best bet is to get plenty of all different kinds of them, and to have extras. You will damage some, lose some, and loan some, never to see them again. For the large nail type, get some thick rubber from a tire, or a floor mat, and cut it into round or square shapes to act as washers. That way any guy ropes or stakes can’t pull out over the head.
Most modern tents have zippers and lots of them. Zippers hate me and either break or jam at the least convenient opportunity. Whe n you set up your tent be sure to think of not stressing the zippers and you can fool them into not jamming up so badly or as often. Try to have a reasonable amount of slack in your tent. Some slack is important in the wind or in the snow.
I use a catalytic heater in my tent in cold weather. Mine uses liquid lantern fuel and works out well. It uses half a gallon per night on its maximum setting. If it isn’t cold enough for this setting, you don’t need it at all. I had a propane one for a while and gave it away because its heat output was about half that of the liquid fuel one. I used an eleven pound tank and it was good for three nights. It took up room and the efficiency of propane decreases with altitude and with temperature drops. Be sure to use a tent heater with ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide accumulation.
If it’s snowing, it’s necessary to keep some heat in the tent to prevent an accumulation of snow on top of it. One way to do this is to keep a kerosene lantern burning all night in your tent. They burn very little fuel, are inexpensive, and the light isn’t too bright. Be very careful where any lamp, lantern, heater, or any appliance is kept. I wish all tents came with a loop from which to hang a lantern.
Before you go camping the first time with your new tent, be sure to take it home, and set it up in your back yard before you go off into the woods and get too far from the guy you bought it from. The worst enemy of a tent is to put it away wet. Don’t do it. If you have to pack up a wet tent, set it up to dry as soon as possible.
Before striking your tent, (what’s this….tent abuse?) cleanup the floor as well as you can. You can make a dandy dust pan by cutting a paper plate in half and using a whisk broom. I hope with all this you can be happy campers. ~ Jerry
Wildlife Photography Tricks
by Jerry Dupree
As most of you know I enjoy wildlife photography. I have always loved the outdoors as a hunter, camper, hiker, off roader and happy wanderer. I like to show my photos to anyone who will hold still and I enter photography competitions and enjoy the outdoors. I am out in the desert or up in the mountains at least once a week and try to get out on trails, up in canyons, river beds, and hopefully beyond the beer cans. I look for areas devoid of vehicle tracks, human footprints, and follow animal trails in hopes of locating burrows, nests, and evidence of animal activity.
I have been an avid photographer for years. Cameras have evolved smaller, cheaper, smarter, and sim.pler. I would like to have the money I have invested in cameras, flashes, lenses, and other accessories. I have game cameras that I try to conceal and place them in the shade under trees and bush.es. I place cameras in pairs with one set on video and the other on still. They are operated on motion detectors that trigger the shutter. They have infrared lights to photograph at night. Most animals are nocturnal and it is amazing the variety of animals that are out there. I have shots of coyotes, gray foxes, kit foxes, bobcats, badgers, deer, bighorn sheep, hawks, owls, vultures. The cameras are also sensitive to wind and moving branches, leaves, and grass. I have a lot of pictures of each. I place my cameras facing north so they are not exposed to direct sunlight into the lens. I record the camera locations by GPS coordinates so I can find them again. I would have lost cameras if I hadn't marked their locations from GPS readings.
Animals are curious, especially foxes. They examine the cameras and knock them over. They come with straps to buckle them around trees, but there are very few straight trees in the desert. Pesky foxes like to chew on the straps and drag the cameras away. I havefound straps that have been chewed through, and cameras that have been dragged a few
feet away. I have out of focus close ups of eyes, noses, and other parts of coyotes, foxes, deer, squirrels, mice, kangaroo rats, and other unidentified animals. I have taken off the straps.
I locate cameras a little higher than surrounding terrain for camera position and prevention from flooding in summer storms and rain showers.
I use dry dog food for bait. I am not trying to feed animals, but to attract them. I pour dog food in bushes so the target animals will spend more time 'posing' for the cameras. I add a small can of cat food which has a stronger scent and is more likely to draw animals from longer distances. The cameras and bait piles are where there are animal tracks along natural game trails.
Another method I use is an electronic predator call. They are rechargeable and have channels that can be changed to call different animals. The sounds of the calls are animal distress sounds such as rabbits, quail, and other sounds. Animals will follow any high pitched squeal because they are curious. There are times when they will answer the call in 30 seconds to five minutes, and other times when they won't appear for more than a half hour. They usually circle and catch the scent. I have had animals come in, catch my scent, and then run away. They usually stop and come back because they are very curious. I will usually place my call in a river bed or a wash crossing a road. River beds and water courses are freeways for animals. I will position myself far enough away from the cameras for a good photo and for my own safety. I carry emergency and safety equipment at all times, which includes ‘snake repellant’ which is a pocket size pistol of .38 cal. or .357 magnum. The first two chambers are loaded with shot shells which are easier to aim and hit a snake hopefully before he gets his chance at me. I always have a hiking stick for balance and to poke over rocks and logs and in bushes before I take a step. I have known people who have been snake bitten and listened to their stories about how they got bit.
My usual walking around camera is a Nikon P900 digital camera. They are not prohibitively expensive and they have an incredible 84X lens which focuses on every detail from a long distance.
I carry a lot of stuff in my pack which includes a small folding shovel, level, compass, GPS, and a satellite phone and Personal Locator Beacon.
There are probably a lot of other things I do automatically just because I have been doing it so long. There are things not to do. Spend as little time as possible setting up. Don't contaminate the area with too much human scent, and for sure don't urinate near the setup. I change locations and am careful not to habituate animals where there is a free meal. 'A fed animal is a dead animal' when they become dependent on humans feeding them. I am not sure, but spotlights and electronic calls may not be legal in national parks.
I think it is a fun hobby and enjoy just getting out for a walk on the wild side and the challenge of getting some good photos. I compare it to fishing. Sometimes you get lucky and get the right animal in the right pose in the right lighting. It is always successful because I get to spend a day by myself in the wilderness. ~ Jerry
Local History Website
By Craig Baker
I found a useful website that lists historical markers around the Southwest, and around the world. It’s the Historical Marker Data Base, at
Each marker listing has a map, directions, marker text, photos, and nearby markers. Some have website links, additional information, or comments. You can search for markers by city, zip code, county, name, etc. Find historic sites you didn’t know about, or read the text of markers that are missing.
If you want to add to the database, you can sign up and add additional markers by filling out the easy online form. Read the guidelines. Each listing must have a historical marker, existing or missing, and it must be outdoors.
Some posts have incorrect dates or names, and some look like a bad social media website, but most are useful and interesting. I was surprised to find some important historical markers in the Los Angeles area that were not yet posted. My favorite marker that I’ve added: Lummis Home. ~ Craig
A very useful and versatile accessory for hiking in the outdoors is a hiking stick. I have tried different types including “trekking poles” which are very similar to ski poles and collapse to anyone’s preferred length and are made of some kind of composite like fiberglass or aluminum. I think the trekking poles would be great for hiking on a trail and allow the arms to assist in walking. The problem I have with them is they probably wouldn’t support my weight if I were off balance. I have a weak leg from an old injury, so a hiking stick helps maintain balance in case I trip or fall. Falling would be a problem if I were to land on a rock or into a sticker bush. I have stepped into and caved in animal burrows and have fallen in sandy river beds. The hiking stick helps to get back up.
I feel more secure having a hiking stick for self defense from whatever is out there including snakes. I use the hiking stick to poke in bushes, behind rocks, or logs before I step. Snakes are timid creatures and very well camouflaged. Most of the time they lay motionless to avoid harm from their predators. Snakes are a feast for roadrunners. I have had close encounters with snakes and accidentally stepped on a rattler. I always poke around before stepping near a bush or over a rock or log.
Walking out in the wilds can be treacherous when stepping on stones, leaves, pine needles, shale, or other unstable surfaces. A hiking stick is very helpful, especially when walking downhill as it provides brakes and can prevent a twisted ankle.
Hiking sticks come in different types of material and lengths. I found a company in Texas who makes hiking sticks of various kinds of wood which are strong enough to assist me when poking around. They are online at Brazos Walking Sticks in Waco, Texas (www.brazos-walking-sticks.com). They are available in oak, sassafras, hickory, in plain natural to ornately customized with fancy handles and even cases. There are other companies who make walking or hiking sticks, canes, staffs, and similar assists for whatever a hiker’s preference might be. I keep mine in my truck with the rubber tip facing me because I once tried pulling my hiking stick out of a loaded vehicle and pulled off the rubber tip and couldn’t retrieve it until I unloaded the truck. ~ Jerry
Tire Plug Kit
By Steve Marschke
I’ve had more flat tires out in the desert than I can count (some well-de.served). Having a spare tire is a no brainer. For your consideration, ask yourself “To plug, or not to plug?” Do you carry a tire plug kit? If you don’t have one you should probably get one. These are the kind of tools that tire shops aren’t allowed to use anymore (liability insurance?) but private parties can still use them and they work pret.ty well. You can pay about $50 for a high-quality kit (Saf-T-Seal) but I have found the $10 Pep Boys or Amazon model to work just fine. The reason for the kit is simple: when you get a flat tire offroad, you will change over to your spare (you have one, right?) At this point you will be back in motion. If you are on your way out of the wilderness, no prob.lem. However, what if you just got start.ed on your trip or haven’t even made it to your destination? Are you going to keep going and get even farther into the boondocks without a spare tire? Maybe, but you will probably start worrying. What if you get another flat or two at one time? With a plug kit you just might be able to patch the flat tire and keep your spare for later. Or you can patch more than one tire. You have a choice now to continue on your itinerary with.out worrying that you will be stranded. Or you can be someone’s hero – chances are you have traveled with someone who was not prepared and now is a liability to the whole group. You may not find out who has not properly prepared their vehicle to go off road until something bad happens, but you can be a part of a successful recovery. Even if you never use it on your own vehicle, it’s a must have.
Tire patch kits are rather simple to use: first find the hole – this can be the hardest part, if you can’t see a nail or foreign object use some water and spread it around with your hand slowly. The escaping air might make a bubble but will usually make some hissing noise as the air and your hand partially block the opening. Most of the time you won’t have any trouble finding the hole – it’s right where that sharp rock or creosote stump is jutting into your tire. If you need to, drive a foot or two to get the hole to an orientation where you can work on it. Then insert the reamer part of the kit in and out of the hole a few times. Thread the plug (it’s like sticky rope) through the insert tool, coat it with the rubber cement, and carefully push it into the hole. Go slow here because you want the ends of the plug to stay outside, not all the way into the tire. Hold the ends of the plug down and remove the tool; the plug should slide out of the tool and stay in the tire. The ends of the plug will be hanging out. You can leave them or trim them off with a knife. Pump up the tire with your air compressor (Don’t have one? Better get one, even a cheapy cigarette lighter version.)
I find a couple helpful hints: if the hole is in the tread, keep tire inflated as much as possible as it will help keep the tire rigid making the insertion through the steel belts slightly easier. If the hole is in sidewall or the corner you can insert the plug with tire completely deflated, since there are few or no steel belts it will go in easily. If you have a large hole or a gash, keep inserting plugs side by side until hole is filled up. It helps to hold first plug with a nee.dle nose pliers to keep from pushing it into the tire as you insert the next plug. While off road and driving slowly, don’t worry too much but periodically check the plug to make sure it stayed put and the tire is holding air. Once you get back to the highway you should have a good idea if the tire is road worthy or not. By the time my tires reach 50,000 miles I usually have at least a couple plugs in each one.
Best part about using a plug – you just saved yourself the cost of a tire. If you get another puncture on the same tire – so what, that tire is already worn and you saved the replacement cost, how much will another plug hurt? Secondary benefit: a plug kit and small air compres.sor and far easier to pack (and cheaper) than a second spare tire – who has space for two anyway? Third benefit: You can buy a replacement tire that matches your other three instead of paying through the nose at the local garage and receiving a mismatched tire you never would have bought in the first place – when it’s all said and done, you’ve bought two tires (expensive lesson to learn).
Next time you get a low tire at home practice using your plug kit in your driveway so you’ll be ready. You can also watch videos on You Tube and get some free training. It’s much easier to learn when you are relaxed at home than it is when you are in the hinterlands, weighing your options. ~ Steve
DIY First Aid Kit by Jerry Dupree
Anything can happen when we are out and about. We have all had scrapes, burns, splinters, etc. Have a good first aid kit and I have never seen one for sale that would be effective for a variety of injuries from something minor to a life threatening situation. I made a list of possibles that have happened in various situations. While in the Boy Scouts a boy suffered a deep cut from falling on a sharp rock and another one was seriously injured from an axe. There are possible eye injuries, broken bones, burns, cuts, heart attacks, strokes, snake bites, and allergic reactions to insect stings. The best first aid is a cell phone. Assistance can be requested for an ambulance, search and rescue, or a medivac helicopter. For quick assistance, a phone call to the nearest hospital can direct to immediate medical assistance and can give directions, advice, and procedures. Photographs can be taken of the injury and emailed so professional medical personnel can evaluate and advise care and treatment. We have special medical insurance that will cover search and rescue and helicopter evacuation.
With the advice of an emergency room nurse I made a list of items one should have when venturing to the outdoors or any trip. The nurse described many of the injuries that are frequently treated in emergency rooms at the hospital. I have also asked for advice from a fire fighter / EMT.
We should always carry a list of our prescription medications and existing medical conditions. If someone becomes incapacitated and not able to communicate the problem, it may not be possible to correctly treat it. I carry my medications and history with me at all times, as well as the name and phone number of any doctor or specialist who knows my conditions and has the files and history. It is best to have a starting point and a source of information before any procedure. Some treatments can compound the situation such as administering an aspirin to someone who is bleeding or is having a stroke.
I began acquiring supplies for my first aid kit. The usual are band aids, non stick tape, and something to to make a splint out of. Never try to re align a broken bone. Just stabilize it to transport the patient to a hospital. Two of us brought a victim of both broken wrists to a hospital and laid his arms on a pillow on his lap. Every slight bump on the freeway caused great pain. Any attempt to straighten a limb would be very painful and may cause further damage such as piercing a vein or an artery. Some items are not available from a pharmacy but may be online. I have an “air way” which is reversible for a child or an adult and fits down the throat for “mouth to mouth” respiration without touching the patient’s mouth when administering CPR. I also have nitroglycerine pills to relieve arteries in case of a heart attack.
List of First Aid Supplies
1 Assorted bandages and gauze pads
2 Non stick tape
3 Aspirin for various purposes including a heart attack, but NOT for a stroke
4 Surgical gloves
6 Anti bacterial towelettes
7 Antiseptic liquid bandage
8 Benadryl gel and tablets
9 Sharp scissors
10 Ipecac Syrup
13 Finger splint
14 Ace Bandages
15 Eye stream
17 Wound seal powder
18 Butterfly bandages
19 Mole skin
20 Blister bandages
21 Saran wrap
24 Snake bite kit
The saran wrap is for covering wounds and wrapping to stop bleeding or using for a splint. Keep wrapping the injured area without cutting circulation. When the patient arrives for medical treatment, the first person will need to remove any bandages to call the appropriate specialist (orthopedic, burn, surgeon, neurosurgeon, vascular, etc). Any gauze or tape would be very painful. One advantage of using Saran wrap is the admitting personnel can see the wound without removal.
Always carry emergency blankets, including space blankets to treat hypothermia, shock, and to keep the patient warm, replace wet clothing, keeping the patient comfortable, etc.
It is best to not apply ointments, creams, gels, etc, to lacerations or major wounds. The emergency team will have to scrape it out before closing and suturing. The best general treatment is to get the patient to professional medical care as soon as possible. First aid is first until a qualified medical team can begin their jobs.
Snake bites: We all fear poisonous snakes and what they can do. If a person is a snake bite victim the best treatment is evacuating to a hospital as soon as possible. Try to kill the snake and bring it to the hospital. Different breeds of snakes have different toxins. The nearest snake bite treatment center is Loma Linda Medical Center. The fastest way to reach it is the best, be it private transportation, ambulance, or helicopter. Contact by cell phone is the best help that can be done. If the bite is in a limb, keep it down from the heart and clean the wound. Snake bites usually become infected. I have known people who have been bitten and it is advisable not to cut the wound. Snake bite kits can be effective for sucking out as much poison without cutting.
It is advisable to keep up with the latest techniques and technology for first aid treatment. There are first aid and CPR classes given by the Red Cross and other agencies. If there is a defibrillator near by, there should also be people knowledgeable in using it. We all need refresher courses in first aid. ~ Jerry
Game Camera Photography
by Jerry Dupree
Photography really became fun when it went digital. Images could be cropped, color adjusted, things added and deleted, poor lighting could be adjusted, and there was no film to process. Photography went wild with video, miniature, under water, drones, Go Pro cameras on helmets, worn on chests, attached to rockets and parachutes.
Digital cameras got better, cheaper, and smarter by the year, Upscale digital cameras used to cost $25,000. Now anyone can be taking excellent photographs for a small fraction of that and achieve better results.
Now fast forward to game cameras that can be set for still or video with sound, and are motion sensor operated. Now we can find out what our cat does at night, or what goes on in the back yard with rodents, owls, raccoons, opossums, and other things that go bump in the night.
I have always loved the outdoors and take a lot of photos of various birds and animals. One day I decided to buy a game camera and leave it in place to see what happens when there are no people around. I discovered there is a definite learning curve when using any specialized camera. Game cameras are not very expensive when considering what their capabilities are. They take stills, videos, and night photos of anything that walks in front of them. Early on I wanted to photograph in nature preserves, but found out they don’t like to give permission to walking off of approved trails and of course there are people who will steal them if they find them. I decided to go places where no one or at least very few people go. There are parts of national parks which are wilderness with no roads. I look for wheel and foot prints so I can place cameras where they are not likely to be found. I have learned to point the cameras north so the lens is not directly pointed toward the sun at any time. I began experimenting with bait to attract certain animals. I began with dry dog food and learned how to disguise it behind rocks or branches to make the scenes appear as natural as possible. I thought that if I used dry dog food and mixed in rabbit food and bird seed, that rabbits, birds, and rodents would attract owls, hawks, and other predators. I tried canned cat food for the strong scent plus inviting bobcats and hopefully a mountain lion or two. So far the cat food has been effective. I keep the cameras in the shade and clear the area in front of them between the camera and the bait and in the background. I have had problems with ravens stealing the bait. For some reason the raven population is much smaller than in past years. At least they are not eating all of my bait.
Foxes are pesky and knock over my cameras and chew on the straps. One time a fox drug one of my cameras a good distance away and it was a good thing I found it. Game cameras come with straps to fasten to trees. There are not many straight, tall trees in the desert, so I place them on the ground and level them. I leave the straps off after a few fox attacks.
At this time of the year I am hoping to attract animals with their newborn litters. Coyotes usually have their pups in May, so they should be up and around with their eyes open and learning to find food for themselves. My wife and I followed a trail one time which led to a den with baby coyotes. I got some photos of a quail family with nine babies. carry a hiking stick and poke around bushes, logs, and grass, before I step in or over them in case I find a rattlesnake. I have found several of them over the years.
Game camera photography has become an interesting hobby and is a little like fishing. Sometimes I get a good catch and am always trying new bait, areas to set up cameras.
I always carry a GPS and record the coordinates or I might not find my cameras. It is easy to become disoriented when hiking around the desert canyons or mountains. I am careful to bring emergency equipment including a satellite phone and a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). ~ Jerry
Time to get creative
by Steve Marschke
I was out with the Wagoneer and ran out of gas. Since I knew our route and we would be putting on a lot of miles and my truck is a gas hog and only has a 20 gallon tank, I had planned ahead and brought a 5 jerry can. Unfortunately, the Wagoneer has a filler neck on the side of the body and there was no way to pour from the jerry can into the neck without a funnel or nozzle. I never carry a nozzle because they take up space, leak and create a mess to put away after use. I normally have a siphon hose, which is easier and cleaner, but I also normally drive the CJ5. I had forgotten the siphon hose on this trip (so much for planning ahead).
I managed to fabricate a temporary funnel from two water bottles and some duct tape. It leaked a bit but most of the gas went into the tank. Lesson to self: plan better. I now have another siphon hose in Wagoneer so I don’t have to move it from one truck to the other. Lesson to others: bring versatile, multi-purpose gear on every trip especially raw building materials. Whenever you are stuck, go through your gear inventory fashion (including the trash), brainstorm and ‘MacGyver’ a solution. ~ Steve Marschke
Note from Debbie Miller Marschke: you will notice that the duct tape actually has a pattern of "Mac N Cheese" on it. I gave that silly duct tape to Steve as a joke. He laughed and said he would never use it...but I guess he was wrong! ~ DM
by Jerry Dupree
It is important to carry essential winch accessories when going off road, the most important of which are a good pair of gloves for handling cables, hooks, and connections. Never hook a winch cable to itself. Always use a “choker” to attach to the vehicle needing help. A choker is a short nylon tow strap with hooks at either end. A choker is also vital when connecting a winch to a tree to prevent damaging the tree. I have used my winch at least five times to help other people and a couple of times getting myself unstuck. On two occasions I used my winch to put vehicles back on their wheels because of a roll over. In those cases I used the car’s seat belts as they are in the middle of the car and they didn’t pivot the front or rear. The choker prevented further damage by not scratching or denting the other vehicle. One was a pickup and the other was an SUV. The roll overs caused extensive damage which probably totaled both vehicles. Fortunately no one was injured.
It is very important that everyone stay completely clear of the cables, hooks, and the remote control. I know of a tragedy when a motor home got stuck in the sand and a man with a truck with a winch hooked up the motor home with a 9,000 lb. winch while the wife was standing too close video taping the event when the cable snapped, which caught her neck and killed her. A hook could also come loose if the rescued vehicle twists or pivots. Stay out of the “bite.”
A snatch block is a pulley used to double the force of the winch. The cable is passed through the pulley from the winch to the rescued vehicle. The winch will operate at half the speed while doubling the force. Given the choice I would prefer winching downhill rather than pulling against gravity. A man who was stuck for a couple of days was trying to tell me how to extricate his vehicle by pulling it uphill. I told him I was the one in charge and my decision was to pull his vehicle downhill, which proved to be the easiest way.
Shackles are used to attach the winch hook to the other vehicle. One is shown that will insert into a trailer hitch receiver which is a very strong connection and will pull in a straight line to the winch.
A friend of mine pulled a truck out of a small canyon up a hill. One time while hunting in Utah a motorhome slid off of an icy road up against a tree. Two vehicles with winches at either end “see sawed” the RV back up and on the road. Since the RV was on an angle to the tree, there wasn’t more serious damage to the coach.
Off roading is a fun hobby, but it can get us into serious trouble. Getting stuck is inevitable and having the right equipment helps a lot.
Pull Pal Off Road Rescue Equipment by Jerry Dupree
I am always interested in new equipment to help with off road adventures, especially when stuck or disabled. I am also a sucker for gimmicks and gadgets of all kinds and I have an extensive collection.
I found a device called a Pull Pal which is designed to use with a winch for pulling out sand, mud, or snow. It was designed by a man who got stuck in sand out in the desert and he thought of this device as he walked out to get help. The retailer who sold it to me had literature about how well it worked. The device was originally designed in two sizes, but they only had the large one in stock. The “shovel” or “plow” part of the device is removable and needs to be attached and locked in to place. The whole thing weighs about 40-50 pounds and takes up a lot of space in a vehicle.
Winches have their limitations, especially in the desert because there are few things large or strong enough to connect a winch to. Thus I thought I had a Eureka moment when I first saw a Pull Pal in an off road equipment store.
The Pull Pal is a device which resembles a cross between a sea anchor and a plow. When connected to a winch and pulled it is supposed to dig itself deeper, thus enabling the stuck vehicle to pull itself out of a hole. I felt secure in the belief that in the event of burying my wheels in a soft spot that I could confidently use my Pull Pal and place it ahead of me, turn on my winch, and be delivered to where I would have enough traction to continue on my journey.
One thing about a winch is the need to connect it to something solid that is at least as high as the center of the wheel of the vehicle. If the winch is too low, it will pull the front of the vehicle down, making it ineffective for pulling out of the stuck position. Under the best situation the Pull Pal would have to be higher than the wheels so the winch doesn’t pull the vehicle down. I needed to try using the Pull Pal on an occasion where I was stuck in soft sand. It could not dig itself in with any traction and there were no trees or large rocks. It just plowed itself toward me. I was fortunate enough to be in an area where there was cell phone reception and I contacted a four wheel friend who could come to my aid. I walked to a road so I could be found and we could return to my stuck truck.
I still have the Pull Pal because I paid for it and wouldn’t think of selling it to anyone I know. It is too big, heavy, and simply doesn’t work. It was a nice try though. ~ Jerry